2015 F Keith Stone commits to Florida Gators

The Florida Gators added another big name to their already-impressive 2015 recruiting class on Monday night when three-star forward Keith Stone (Deerfield Beach, FL) verbally committed to play college basketball in Gainesville.

Ranked No. 127 overall by Rivals, Stone (6-foot-7, 215 pounds) took his first official visit to Florida over the weekend.

A long-time Gators lean, seeing the program in person and getting the go-ahead from the staff was all it took for him to commit to head coach Billy Donovan. Stone announced his commitment Monday via his Twitter account.

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Media Day: New challenges ahead for Florida Gators basketball in 2014-15

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan held a press conference last week as part of his team’s media day and discussed a number of pressing topics facing his team as it began fall practice. Below are some links to stories published here on OnlyGators.com last week as well as a wrap-up of everything else Donovan had to say.

Story: Chris Walker suspended three games, Brandone Francis will not play
Story: Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Will Muschamp
Story: Michael Frazier II must step up game, leadership for Gators

NEW CHALLENGES

The 2014-15 Gators basketball team will be a vastly different group…because that’s what happens when you lose four true-senior starters that amassed the vast majority of your points and logged tons of minutes. Florida was so successful last season not just because of those players’ experience but also due to the fact that they had faced so much adversity that they were motivated to overcome any they encountered during their final year in orange and blue.

This year’s team, well, it’s filled with freshman and sophomores that are used to seeing the Gators as one of the best teams in the nation, coming off a season in which the program only lost three games.

“They haven’t faced any adversity,” said Donovan. “That’s going to be, I think, a challenge that these guys have not been tested in. They can go out there, work really, really hard and may not get the results [they want]. …

“There are a couple of concerns for me. There was no level of consistency at all from our returning players outside of Michael Frazier. There were moments that he played exceptionally well, there were moments that they really did a great job, but there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out. That is going to be a challenge.”

It’s not that Donovan thinks this group of players is entitled. Rather, “it’s a lack of not living in the real world” for these players, which likely expect Florida to continue or even improve on its impressive showing from last season.

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Micahel Frazier II must step up game, leadership

Just like Florida Gators basketball’s mantra was once “layups, dunks and Lee Humphrey,” the 2013-14 season was very much “layups, dunks and Michael Frazier II.”

Then a sophomore, Frazier took 38 percent of Florida’s three-point attempts and was the Gators’ second-leading scorer with 482 points (18 percent of the team’s total) despite only taking 79 shots inside the arc.

Frazier also made 11 threes in a single game, breaking a 17-year school mark for most in a single game while draining the third-most in a single contest by an SEC player and the most ever in an SEC league game.

However, he was also sixth in assists and seventh in free throw attempts, despite being the team’s best shooter at .842 in 39 games.

If Frazier wants to continue being a productive player for Florida in 2014-15, he’s going to have to step up his all-around game. That means driving the lane, helping facilitate by passing the ball, and taking his already-improved defense to another level.

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Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Florida Gators colleague Will Muschamp

During his team’s media day on Wednesday, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan threw his support behind an embattled colleague, head football coach Will Muschamp, noting that the entire athletic program is “all in this together” and hoping for a positive outcome to the football season.

“I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for Will,” Donovan began.

“Obviously for him, I look at things a little bit differently. Certainly he took over a situation that was really, really challenging, in my opinion. I thought he imposed his style of play on his team. I thought the year before, I saw an unbelievable change inside of his team from a physical standpoint from year one to year two.

“The way they had to handle all the injuries last year was something, to me, that was just totally insurmountable to ever overcome. You can’t lose the level of players – and I respected the way Will handled it because he never used that as an excuse – but the truth is you can’t lose that many good players and be good. You just can’t.

“I look at their team, even this year, there were times last year where I watched and you saw them kind of – I think Will talked about this, ‘Woe is me,’ all that stuff – their team is not that way at all. I think the guy has done an incredible job of changing the culture in terms of his team from one year to the next in a very positive way.”

Donovan respects Muschamp so much, in fact, that he invited him to speak in front of the Florida men’s basketball team this summer. Donovan hoped bringing Muschamp in would help enlighten his players on how quickly things can turn from success to struggle simply from the loss of personnel – whether due to graduation or injuries.

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Florida F/C Chris Walker suspended three games; G Brandone Francis will not play in 2014-15

Florida Gators sophomore forward Chris Walker will miss the first three games of the season, including two regular-season contests, while serving a suspension for violation of team rules, head coach Billy Donovan announced on Wednesday.

Donovan also noted that four-star freshman guard Brandone Francis, who OnlyGators.com first reported was cleared academically to enroll at Florida, will sit out the 2014-15 season while he works to improve his grades in order to get approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Walker, who missed the first half of his freshman campaign while working to become academically eligible to compete, is projected to start in the frontcourt for the Gators once he is able to play in his first game. He decided to return for his sophomore campaign rather than try his hand at the NBA Draft a year ago.

“He has worked very, very hard in the weight room. I think the biggest thing, his biggest challenge this year, in my opinion, is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” Donovan said.

“The one thing I admired about him a year ago is here comes a highly-profiled kid coming into our season in the middle of January. … He was an unbelievable teammate last year in terms of understanding the fact that he had missed so much of the summer, non-conference [games], and when he came here, he never once complained about playing time. He wanted to do whatever he could to help. …

“You hear all these expectations and people look at the fact that he has gotten physical stronger and everything else, [yet] he has such a long way to go in terms of being reliable, accountable and disciplined. Those would be the three things that I would say I don’t have a real good grasp on right now, but we’re going to find out.

“Him being reliable on the court to be able to do his job, him being responsible as it relates to his work ethic each and every day and understanding his role. Those are going to be some things where I think he’s going to have to battle some of those expectations because certainly he’s been built and hyped up. …

“I don’t know what kind of impact he’s going to make. I think that he’s going to have to be able to be able to handle that where maybe he’s got his own personal expectation of where he thinks he should be and if he’s not at that level, how is he going to handle that? I think that’s one of the most difficult things to deal with as a coach, when you have players with individual expectations that don’t’ get met with how they’re performing. He’s got to have a realistic expectation. He’s got a long way to go.”

Francis was expected to serve a reserve role at guard.

Florida opens up the 2014-15 campaign at home against William & Mary on Friday, Nov. 14. UF then hosts Miami on Monday, Nov. 17 and Louisiana-Monroe on Friday, Nov. 21.

Walker will be eligible to return for the Louisiana-Monroe contest as he will serve one part of his three-game suspension during UF’s exhibition game against Barry University on Thursday, Nov. 6.

He averaged 1.9 points, 1.3 boards and 0.4 blocks in just 4.8 minutes per game during his freshman season but should see a huge uptick in minutes and opportunity during his sophomore campaign.

“I think, offensively right now, he’s got a long way to go. I don’t necessarily know if he has an offensive go-to game, so to speak,” Donovan said. “He’s a terrific athlete. He’s got a really good motor. He tries to go rebound and chase balls on the glass. He’s a good shot blocker. I think he’s very quick off the dribble, he actually can dive the ball some from the perimeter. But he’s not a great jump shooter, he’s not a great back-to-the-basket player; he’s not a guy you can just throw the ball to and he can go get you a bucket. But I do think there’s a lot of value he can bring into our team.”

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TWO BITS: Florida vs. VCU, Horschel, DiMarco

1 » According to head coach Shaka Smart (via the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s Tim Pearrell), the VCU Rams will serve as Florida Gators basketball’s opponent for UF’s annual secret scrimmage ahead of their exhibition contest and the 2014-15 regular season. VCU will travel to Florida for an on-campus scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 1. The Gators took on Georgia Tech (in Valdosta, Georgia) in 2013, faced Rollins College in 2012 and squared off against UCF in 2011. Playing against Smart will mark the second time in four years that head coach Billy Donovan will face one of his former assistants (Donnie Jones, 2011) in the closed scrimmage.

College basketball teams are allowed to play a combination of two total scrimmages or exhibition games, and Donovan has always opted for one of each. UF will play its exhibition game against Barry University at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

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Florida Gators basketball to be involved in ESPNU’s Midnight Madness coverage

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

The Florida Gators will be one of 11 college basketball programs giving ESPN an early look at their team as the program will take part in ESPNU‘s three-hour Midnight Madness coverage on Friday, Oct. 17, according to a network release.

Though Florida has not announced any Midnight Madness activities and ESPN did not specifically detail what it would be doing on campus, ESPN announced via press release on Monday that head coach Billy Donovan will be “wired for sound to bring fans [a] unique perspective” of the action, indicating that the Gators may be planning some type of festivities for that evening.

Update: UF’s men’s basketball Twitter account sent out the following tweet on Monday after the announcement, detailing the team’s involvement in the show.


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TWO BITS: Robinson hype, Florida’s future

1 » Offering up some observations ahead of the 2014-15 college basketball campaign, CBSSports.com‘s Jon Rothstein opened up his most recent column by spotlighting five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) and the impact he is likely to have on the Florida Gators this season.

1. Florida’s Devin Robinson is being undervalued nationally

We’re about three weeks away from the start of practice and it feels like Devin Robinson isn’t even scheduled to play this season. Many people including myself have hyped — and with good reason — the incoming freshmen at Kentucky (Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis, Devon Booker) but when you watch Robinson play you’ll realize that he doesn’t just have a chance to be one of the best freshmen in the SEC. He has a chance to be one of the best freshmen in the country. Blessed with freakish length at 6-feet-8 along with a terrific second jump, the Virginia native is the type of high-level athlete that has a chance to immediately start for the Gators in his first year of college basketball. Versatile enough to play either forward spot, Robinson has big-time upside and is only scratching the surface of where he’ll be in a few seasons. Long, active, and always around the ball, this is the type of player that Billy Donovan will use to guard multiple positions on defense for as long as he’s in Gainesville. Think Devin Ebanks with more offense.

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